Originally published: August 9, 2010
Last updated: November 29, 2010 - 10:44am
Google and Verizon have released a joint proposal for an open Internet guided by two goals: Internet users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium. And America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure; it is imperative for our global competitiveness.
The seven-element proposal takes the form of a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers:
- Make the FCC's current wireline broadband openness principles fully enforceable.
- Expand the FCC's principles to include a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices. This means that for the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition. This includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic - including paid prioritization. So, in addition to not blocking or degrading of Internet content and applications, wireline broadband providers also could not favor particular Internet traffic over other traffic.
- Create enforceable transparency rules, for both wireline and wireless services. Broadband providers would be required to give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities. Broadband providers would also provide to application and content providers information about network management practices and any other information they need to ensure that they can reach consumers.
- Case-by-case enforcement: The FCC would enforce openness policies on a case-by-case basis, using a complaint-driven process. The FCC could move swiftly to stop a practice that violates these safeguards, and it could impose a penalty of up to $2 million on bad actors.
- Allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services (such as Verizon's FIOS TV) offered today. Such online services must be distinguishable from traditional broadband Internet access services and are not designed to circumvent the rules. The FCC would also monitor the development of these services to make sure they don't interfere with the continued development of Internet access services.
- Openness principles would not apply to wireless, except for the transparency requirement. In addition, the Government Accountability Office would be required to report to Congress annually on developments in the wireless broadband marketplace, and whether or not current policies are working to protect consumers.
- Reform of the Federal Universal Service Fund so that it is focused on deploying broadband in areas where it is not now available.
[Alan Davidson is Google director of public policy. Tom Tauke is Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy, and communications]
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said protections for privacy online should be included in the legislative proposal -- an important policy consideration for Google, which makes its money off advertising. "Today's proposal leaves out essential elements that should be a part of FCC action to ensure a free and open Internet," Rep Markey said. "Rather than a proposal from two corporate giants, a public process at the FCC is needed to ensure the preservation of an unfettered Internet ecosystem that will continue to be an indispensable platform for innovation, investment, entrepreneurship, and free speech."
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) said he was "disappointed" in the proposal. "Many of us have been warning for a number of years that broadband service providers would begin to use a lack of net neutrality regulations to prioritize their increasingly diverse business offerings and content, thereby jeopardizing open Internet access," Rep Inslee said. "Today's announcement is one more reason that the FCC must act to reclassify broadband and protect consumers online."
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps
"Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward. That's one of its many problems. It is time to move a decision forward-a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations."
"Under the Google-Verizon definition of network neutrality, wireless companies would only have to be transparent about their network practices - meaning that they could block any application, content or service so long as they told consumers they were doing so. And while there would be no pay for priority on the best efforts Internet, there are almost no limits on so-called "managed services," other than that they would need to be "distinguishable in purpose and scope," from the Internet. Thus, it is conceivable under the agreement that a network provider could devote 90% of its broadband capacity to these priority services and 10% to the best efforts Internet. If managed services are allowed to cannibalize the best efforts Internet, whatever protections are agreed to for the latter become, for all intents and purposes, meaningless."
"[T]he proposal also damages open Internet efforts through commission as well as omission. The section on "case-by-case enforcement" directs the FCC to defer to rules set by industry-led advisory groups. Combined with the proposal's recommendation that the FCC have no rulemaking authority with respect to consumer protection and nondiscrimination, the agreement outsources the FCC's powers and authorities to the very industries these rules are supposed to oversee."
"Google and Verizon can try all they want to disguise this deal as a reasonable path forward, but the simple fact is this framework, if embraced by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, would transform the free and open Internet into a closed platform like cable television. This is much worse than a business arrangement between two companies. It's a signed-sealed-and-delivered policy framework with giant loopholes that blesses the carving up of the Internet for a few deep-pocketed Internet companies and carriers.... Congress and the FCC should reject Verizon and Google's plans to carve up the Internet for the private benefit of deep-pocketed special interests, and move forward with policies that preserve the open Internet for all. This begins with the FCC reasserting its authority over broadband to ensure it can protect the open Internet and promote universal access to affordable, world-class quality broadband."
See also: How the Google-Verizon Deal Threatens to Destroy the Open Internet
National Cable & Telecommunications Association
"[I]t is a positive sign that two companies with divergent views on the need for regulation can reach agreement on this complicated set of issues. We remain focused and committed to exploring a targeted legislative framework that can be applied more broadly across all industry players. The Google-Verizon announcement shows that it is possible for compromise and that we can reach a constructive solution."
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